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Electric forklift or lift truck – the same thing?

One of the greatest innovations of modern times, yet highly overlooked, is the practical machine used for moving products over short distances known as the lift truck. This practical machine has reached a number of 150,000 units sold each year on account of its advantageous functions and of its contribution to lowering the work time and making it more efficient, and, therefore, helping companies.

A lift truck evolved from chains and winches mechanisms, known as hoists, which were the primary tools used for handling heavy items in the second half of the 19th century. Further developments of this device, around the end of the 19th century, included a wooden platform truck, to which were added, later on, electric motors and traction batteries, improving them considerably. Around the First World War, a lot of efforts were made for designing new machines to handle heavy weights, giving birth to the bomb handling crane which had a power lifting mechanism that was to be considered the first electric lift truck.

Designs of the first lift trucks were not so elaborate, with no hydraulics or even forks, and they were used to lift the weight only a few inches from where chains took the task of moving the load laterally a few feet. But even with these limited capacities the machines made a huge difference in the efficiency of the workers. The first accountable and recognized counterbalance truck was designed in 1917 by Clark, who named it a Tructractor, and its use was meant for his axle plant, but as visitors came and saw its practicality, they requested their own models. In 1920, the first lift truck to use hydraulic power for lifting was designed, which lead to the development of the first electric truck with forks and an elevated mast by Yale. The truck designed by Yale is recognized today as the first electric forklift.

The electric forklift designed by Yale did not grow in popularity right away. The major breakthrough for these machines occurred in the late 1930s, when the standardized pallet was developed. The pallet design allowed the loads to be stacked uniformly therefore leading to the development of the electric forklift. The designs of the warehouses also changed, increasing their height and not their surface. This lead to the improvement of the electric forklift designs by making them more powerful and maneuverable and increasing the height so that they could raise a load up to 50 feet above the ground.

With all the development of the forklifts, questions were raised about the safety of the operators and workers. Around 1950, load rests and operator cages were introduced, items that later became standard. Safety problems have not gone away and are part of today’s developments as well. Other problems (apart from safety) need solutions as well, like environmental problems. The power sources of the trucks have evolved from battery power to electricity all the way to hydrogen cells that were introduced in 2000.

The traction of the forklifts is provided by the tires. There are three major categories of tires, namely pneumatic, solid and polyurethane, each with its advantages and disadvantages. Pneumatic tires resemble big truck tires, filled with air, having a thick, deep tread and the rubber used for their manufacture is strong and resists wearing down. They also provide an air cushion for the forklift thus increasing its lifespan. Solid rubber tires are like pneumatic tires, only that they are solid instead of being filled with air. This prolongs the life of the tires, but is not useful in extending the lifespan of the forklift. Polyurethane tires are best suited for indoor use providing the right amount of traction and lowering the rolling resistance, thus prolonging their lifespan. The terrain you are working is the main criteria you should use in choosing the tires for your forklift. There is a choice available for every terrain and any type of working conditions.

About the Author: There are not many things that separate an electric forklift from a lift truck. They have about the same features, the main difference being that lift trucks are heavier machines able to carry heavier loads on rough terrains, when electric forklifts are designed mostly as smaller machines for indoor use. Other than that they are quite similar.

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